I never liked downtown anyway
At one point in the hands-off gameplay demo of Dying Light 2 at E3, the Techland employee making decisions for the packed room to see on-screen turned on some pumps at a dam, draining one section of the city and flooding another. That one choice had an impact on the environment in the open world. His people needed water, and he did what he had to do. But just because it was what he felt he had to do doesn’t make it the right thing.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. That moment happened toward the end of the demo. It’s a cool idea to give players significant control over the environment, but maybe it will make more sense to know how it gets to that point.
The Dying Light 2 demo began with a murder mystery. Or at least, I could sniff out a murder mystery even if protagonist Aiden Caldwell couldn’t. Two rival factions in his part of the city are forming a shaky alliance against the man who controls all the remaining drinking water. That man is sending an envoy to meet, but a scuffle breaks out, and Aiden’s buddy is shot. One of the faction leaders claims it was the envoy, but I’m pretty sure I know better.
This is right where my path would have diverged with the demo if I had been in control. Players get a choice to pursue the fleeing van or to stay with the wounded friend. I don’t trust the guy telling me it was the men who came to talk. I would have stayed.
But instead, we’re whisked on a parkour rampage through the city, jumping between rooftops, climbing on ledges, and falling into zombie pits (oops!) as Aiden attempts to catch up with the van. The team showed off some of the tricks players have access to, like a grappling hook and a paraglider to really get around town. The free running looks a little bit stilted to me, as Aiden runs to a ledge, stops for a split second, and then jumps off. It lacks the smoothness seen in the parkour in other games.
Aiden catches up with the van, casually murders a couple of people, then takes a seat for a nice conversation with the neurotic driver. Again, some binary choices pop up: do you want to play good cop or bad cop with him? Techland notes that for some choices, there is a “hidden” third choice of indecision. If you can’t pick between the given options in the allotted time, your choice is silence.
According to Techland, the choices will have a huge impact on how players play the game. Since some choices can reveal or destroy entire sections of the city, and some choices will determine who lives and who dies to give you missions, players will finish Dying Light 2 having seen at most only half the content. To see the rest, players would have to play through again and make the opposite choices, which can be done with either a totally fresh save file or through a New Game+ option, keeping all of the upgrades from the previous run.
Dying Light 2 will also feature up to four-player cooperative multiplayer, so it will be possible to see the consequences of alternate choices in your friends’ games too. It’s worth mentioning that whichever player is the host “owns” that instance of the city, and players who join are just tourists looking at an alternate timeline.
Otherwise, Dying Light 2 is looking very much like you’d expect. There’s brutal melee combat, breakable weapons, and a fair bit of zombie-killing. These zombies are sensitive to ultraviolet light, so roaming the open air during the day isn’t so bad, but venturing into the underbelly of the city or going out at night can be dangerous.
When the demo made it to its climax, Aiden confronted the big bad guy, who makes a credible claim that he was not responsible for ordering the killing of Aiden’s friend in the beginning. I’m inclined to believe the man. But since I was not in control, in order to see what happens if Aiden had made the choice to trust him, I’ll just have to wait until Dying Light 2 releases next year.